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Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

After a deadly summer for North Atlantic right whales, Senators Booker (D-NJ), Isakson (R-GA) and...
The Summer of Scylla

The Summer of Scylla

You know how every once in awhile, you meet someone and you just click? You...
New beaked whale species discovered in Japan

New beaked whale species discovered in Japan

A new species of beaked whale who lives in the North Pacific has been identified...
Preparations continue for release of beluga whales into sanctuary bay

Preparations continue for release of beluga whales into sanctuary bay

Little Grey and Little White continue to do well and have settled into their temporary...
Southern Resident Orca Scat Project: update from the field

Southern Resident Orca Scat Project: update from the field

Dr. Giles, a scientist with the Orca Scat Project, and CK9 Eba on the scent...
Three Southern Resident orcas declared dead

Three Southern Resident orcas declared dead

The devastating news came late on Tuesday night – three more Southern Resident orcas lost,...
A Beautiful Coincidence: WDC partners with fan club dedicated to BTS RM

A Beautiful Coincidence: WDC partners with fan club dedicated to BTS RM

I’m not sure if I believe in fate or coincidences, but in early April, all...
We <3 Whale Poop: WDC providing support for Orca Scat Project

We <3 Whale Poop: WDC providing support for Orca Scat Project

San Juan Island, Washington. July 22, 2019: Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is thrilled to...

Blackfish gets a BAFTA nomination but just misses out on an Oscar

In January 2013, the Sundance Film Festival in the US was buzzing with news of a documentary that was listed which would  lift the lid on the dark underbelly of a company that is considered as American as apple pie – SeaWorld.

In just 12 months, Blackfish has brought the barbaric issue of keeping highly mobile, sentient orcas in concrete tanks to the mainstream.

Last week, The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) recognised Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s powerful film with a nomination for Best Documentary.

Today, even though Blackfish made the long list, it just fell short of an Oscar nomination. But make no mistake this trailblazing documentary is a true winner in the campaign for animal rights and welfare.

Throughout 2013 the movement that became known as the ‘Blackfish effect’ quickly spread…and SeaWorld became increasingly rattled as media and high profile celebrities lined up to take the corporation to task for the welfare concerns surrounding the care and safety of both humans and whales.

Wave after wave of negative publicity washed over SeaWorld while the corporation, for the most part, stayed silent.

International superstars such as Willie Nelson, Heart and Barenaked Ladies led a mass exodus of bands that cancelled their upcoming SeaWorld gigs.

When Blackfish was aired on CNN its viewing figures broke all predictions and social media activity made it the top CNN movie of the year.

The financial media carried reports of shares in SeaWorld dipping, staff being laid off and attendance down. Even the Chairman of SeaWorld Entertainments Inc. sold off $1.3 million of his company shares.

Today we see an industry at tipping point. If it wasn’t for Blackfish and David Kirby’s insightful book, Death at SeaWorld, would people still be talking about the tragic deaths of orca trainers Dawn Brancheau, Alexis Martinez and Keltie Byrne? It’s a moot point but as award season gets underway I honestly believe that history will show that these two ground-breaking works were the catalyst that made SeaWorld acknowledge that the public appetite for seeing these incredible creatures confined to tanks for our entertainment was waning.  SeaWorld must appreciate that the world has moved on and they must move with it. The public are more discerning and questioning of this ‘national institution’ as its dark practices are scrutinised like never before.

For SeaWorld the 40 year experiment on keeping whales and dolphins for our amusement must surely be coming to an end. Like the rock music that plays on a loop at the Shamu Stadium, the noise surrounding this controversy is deafening and can no longer be ignored.

It is now time for SeaWorld to listen to the public, change its business model and, if it is really serious about its often quoted commitment to conservation and education, it should pledge to end cetacean captivity. 

The BAFTAs will be announced on February 16th.

photo image copyright Erin Braswell